Of all the things I regret in life, being born in the late 1970s is not one of them. 10 or 20 years earlier would have been better but I don’t envy those born towards the end of the millennium. Imprisoned by the panopticon of social media and the iPhone, facing impossible housing costs, climate change and living in a moral anarchy that has inevitably led to a stifling moral tyranny.
But the worst disadvantage younger generations (including mine) had compared to previous cohorts was a lack of cultural norms, and the tyranny of choice. Mary Harrington’s piece today shows how susceptible people are to memes, especially when they come with the backing of major corporations and the entertainment industry. You can be anything you want to be, we’re told — which is completely untrue.
One of the biggest disadvantages a young person can have in life is the lack of a mentor or guide because there is so much destructive advice about, and it is so easy to ruin your life.
Much of the stuff you’ll read in lifestyle magazines is almost comically terrible, either a rationalisation on the part of someone who has themselves made terrible life choices — as journalists tend to — or the sort of advice that will most raise the status and popularity of the person giving it. Worse still is the collective opinion of social media, which amounts to toxic validation — cheering on people as they sabotage their relationships and their chances of enjoying future happiness. Again, a lot of this is people rationalising the decisions they’ve made, deeply unhappy people who want to spread unhappiness.
Jordan Peterson rose to fame because so many young men were lacking in life direction and role models in a confusing world, aggravated by the fact that so many lacked a father, and fatherly advice. (I say this as someone who had quite a distant father — it’s a huge disadvantage in life.)
Peterson was initially appealing to people who were lured by the self-pitying appeal of inceldom, and his advice was nothing new, more like the forgotten wisdom of the ages: clean your room, have some self-respect, avoid destructive people. Such small things will make a big difference to your life.
Toxic validation feels like a huge problem for women too, who are subject to some comically bad advice by the meme-generators. So, as Wesley Yang mused the other day… how come there has never been a female Jordan Peterson? Nominations now open.